Organiser arrested as police intercept refugee car convoy

Victorian police have intercepted a car and bike convoy of refugee supporters in Preston today, as it made its way to the Mantra Hotel in Preston that is holding around 60 refugees, in a high-risk environment.

The convoy was stopped by police outside the Mantra Hotel around 2pm, Friday, 10 April, and was witnessed by the refugees in the hotel, who have been holding their own protests demanding release from the risk of COVID 19 infection. (The press release detailing today’s protest is pasted below.)

Police intercept cars from the convoy

One of the organisers of the protest, Chris Breen, has been arrested and charges with ‘inciting a protest’. It is understood the police have taken the names and details of the drivers and bike riders in the over 30 strong convoy with the threat of being fined “for not staying at home.”

The police action to prevent the refugee convoy is in stark contrast to the workers’ car convoy that took place in Camberwell (and Sydney) yesterday. The workers’ convoys to demand “No Workers Be Left Behind” went ahead unimpeded by the Victorian police.

“The car convoy was quite safe, “ said Ian Rintoul, “but detention centres and crowded hotels are not. The police action has deliberately targeted protest action that highlights the government’s hypocrisy on COVID 19 safety.”

“You can leave your home to drive to JB Hi-Fi, but you can’t drive outside a hotel to highlight the lack of safety for vulnerable people who should not be imprisoned, said Rintoul.

“Health rules around coronavirus cannot be used to stamp out the right to protest. The protests inside detention, where over 200 are on hunger strike, and at the Mantra Motel and Kangaroo Point Hotels will continue, and we will continue to support them until the immigration detainees are freed. Everyone should be safe from the coronavirus. No one should be left behind.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

For comment from Melbourne: Lucy Honan 0404 728 104.

Press release issued prior to the Melbourne convoy protest

Melbourne Action Alert Today: Car Cavalcade – Detention Is a Covid-19 Risk, Free the Refugees!<

“Refugee supporters will hold a car cavalcade protest today Friday April 10, at 2pm at the Mantra hotel in Hotham Street, Preston, calling for the release of refugees held there and across Australia, on public health and humanitarian grounds. They will also collect donations for asylum seekers in the community who have no income or access to Medicare, for later distribution,” said Chris Breen for the Refugee Action Collective.

“Refugees in the Mantra hotel have come to Australia under the Medevac legislation and many have health conditions that make them vulnerable to Covid-19. They sleep up to three to a room, and activity areas like the TV room do not have space for social distancing. Conditions are also unsafe at Broadmeadows detention centre, where asylum seekers have been told hand sanitiser is not available for all, and where up to 12 people eat together at a time.

“Over 1200 doctors have signed a letter calling for the release of refugees from detention. ALP federal MPs Ged Kearney and Peter Khalil have called for the release of refugees in the Mantra, and income support for those in the community.

“The Refugee Action Collective calls on Premier Daniel Andrews to support those calls. Our protest is a voluntary act of compassion. Daniel Andrews has said police have discretion with his Covid-19 lockdown laws and it would be tragic if he allowed them to shut down safe public protest, instead of standing up to Scott Morrison over refugees.”

Breen continued: “Cavalcade protest is safe, detention centres are not. The cavalcade will have a maximum of two people per car (from the same household). The protest will be safer than going to Bunnings, safer than travelling on public transport, safer than horse racing, safer than getting a haircut, and safer by an order of magnitude than being stuck in a sealed corridor in the Mantra.

“Detention centres are like cruise ships on land. It is only a matter of time before Covid-19 devastates detention centres. We call on the Morrison government to stop playing politics with refugee lives and release these people safely into the community.”

For further comment call Chris Breen from the Refugee Action Collective on 0403 013 183.

The cavalcade endorsed by:

Adelaide Vigil for Manus and Nauru

Aireys Inlet Rural Australians for Refugees

Amnesty Newcastle

Amnesty South in Tasmania

Australian Services Union Private Sector Branch (Vic)

Armidale Rural Australians for Refugees

Bendigo Rural Australians for Refugees

Combined Refugee Action Group Geelong

Earthworker Cooperative

Mount Alexander Climate Emergency Team

People for Human Rights and Equality

Refugee Action Collective (Vic)

Refugee Action Coalition (NSW)

Refugee Action Collective (Brisbane)

Semaphore and Port Adelaide Amnesty Australia Action Group

South Gippsland Rural Australians for Refugees

Tamil Refugee Coucil

Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Support

Tasmanian Refugee Rights Action Group

Teachers for Refugees (Vic)

Unionists For Refugees (Vic)

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